what’s the minimum pay increase you’d change jobs for?

Someone just asked me this on Twitter:

What’s the minimum pay increase you’d consider changing jobs for?

My answer is: It would entirely depend on how much I liked my current job. If I liked my current job, it would take a lot. A hell of a lot. Because jobs you like are really, really valuable.

And the next factor it would depend on is what the other job was like. Would it give me more experience in something I want more experience in?  Is there something else attractive about the substance of the work? How attracted am I to the organization itself — its culture, its management style, its mission? (If there’s bad management, no amount of money would get me there.) What do I think working there would be like day to day? Are there big quality of life differences between the two employers?

But if I was neutral on my job — could take it or leave it — and the new job was more or less equally attractive, and you’re really going to make me commit to a number, then I think I’d say somewhere around 20%. Probably more if the job itself wasn’t particularly more appealing than my current one, and probably less if it was a lot more appealing.

And if I didn’t like my job? I’d leave without an increase even being necessary.

What do you guys think?

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. lee*

    I think a more interesting question is what is the maximum pay decrease you would accept when changing jobs?

      1. Cube Ninja*

        A little over four years ago, I took a 15% pay decrease to go work for a company that promotes heavily from within. I started out as a temp-to-hire and during my time there have been promoted twice – the second into a supervisory role and am one of the go-to people in my department even among other supervisors/managers.

        Sometimes it *really* works out the right way, even if it’s a little financially rough at the start. :)

    1. Phyr*

      I have done that. I was desperate to switch jobs at the time, it was not fun and has cost me in the long run. If I had gotten any sort of raise in the last three years it would be a different story.

      Sadly, desperation make people do/agree to things that might not be the best in the long term.

      1. anonymous J*

        Amen to THAT! I’m trying to make a similar move, and I’d take $7 – 10k less just to get away from my current situation!

        The benefits of leaving here would FAR outweigh the costs, as long as I don’t end up with more of the same.

  2. Kate*

    I would consider a pay decrease of 20-30% for the right job. Somewhere my talents and skills really fit, where people treat another with respect and collaborate effectively. I make pretty good money now but raises and bonuses don’t buy a good working culture.

  3. M.W.*

    It’s definitely everything that I’m currently doing now in addition to some other tasks I’ve dabbled in as well. I love everyone I work with and what I’m doing but I haven’t had my performance review yet with my current boss so I was hoping the timing might work out to be able to meet with him and say “so and so is offering me x amount, I don’t really want to leave…” and be able to use that to negotiate a higher raise. My current boss said to me in last year’s review that if I ever were thinking about looking elsewhere to bring that to him so that we could talk about it so I’m keeping quiet for now though til post interview and then we’ll see. I think the new job would bring additional responsibilities that I haven’t worked with previously and at the very least, it’s somewhat reassuring to me to know that someone out there likes my resume and is interested even if I’m not ultimately offered the position. Do I really want to commute? No…so that is one nay against taking the new job but the right increase could help sway me. It wouldn’t be an easy decision either way.

  4. Anonymous*

    Good question. So many other factors to think about other than pay. Job content, commute, opportunity for growth, and cool colleagues all weigh heavily.
    All things being equal, I’d consider leaving for 20%.
    If you like compensation topics, check out:


  5. Anonymous*

    I had already been laid off so my situation is a little different. However, I had multiple offers and chose the one that paid the least (although all were higher than my last position). They were looking for an expert in a certain technology but I had more of a “working knowledge” and clearly told them that. I secretly wanted a job in this area but didn’t apply for any because I knew I had a lot to learn. To my surprise, they said they couldn’t actually afford a true expert so they were prepared to find someone with a solid base that could become an expert over time. Bingo! There are some skills that can only be learned on the job and this is one of them.

    Of course, it’s not all puppies and rainbows. The work environment leaves a little to be desired. Everyone is really nice but things are always hectic, their documentation stinks and things are sort of disorganized. Like many companies, they scaled back way too far the past two years and are finally feeling the pain. Sadly (for them), I’m considered a big part of the solution;)

    Either way, it sounds corny but I try to remind myself how lucky I am to be working at a challenging job for a good salary in these times. Plenty of educated, skilled workers are doing mind-numbing work for low pay to make ends meet. Taking it a step further, think about how many people in third world countries do manual labor all day just to get dinner that night.

    1. booboo*

      I took a contract position immediately after getting laid off this fall. It is the worst job I’ve ever had…completely mind-numbing, junior level hell. I die a little every day.

  6. Karl*

    I really like my job. I have incredible autonomy, both in my job and in changing the direction of the company (I’m one of seven people at a small ad agency). It can be stressful at times, but I enjoy the daily variety.

    The pay is reasonable, if lower than it should be. I’ve seen the financials and I know it’s the maximum the company can currently pay (and I’m helping grow the business, so that should pay off). There’s a lot of potential, too — if we can increase profits and make things more stable, this is my dream job.

    Beyond the autonomy, the three owners really appreciate what I do. And it’s a short commute (10-20 minutes). Maybe in two years it would be different, but I’d need at least a 50% pay increase to leave.

  7. Justin*

    For me that is the entirely wrong question. Once I arrived at the “able to pay my bills” zone of income, I stopped thinking about salary and started thinking about work environment, benefits, and coworkers.

    I recently took a small pay cut just to escape from an unhappy work environment with low benefits.

  8. scott m*

    I would rather not have a pay increase in a new job. With additional pay comes increased expectations.

  9. Cube Ninja*

    For me, it would have to be at least 20%, if not a bit more. Because of the nature of the company I work for (outsource), our pay is less than that of comparable companies who do the work directly to remain competetive.

    My pay is reasonable, though, as its the most I’ve made at any job to date. My commute for the majority of my time with this company rarely exceeded 15 minutes each way. I moved recently, so it’s more like 25-30, but I’ve worked in companies where my daily commute was over an hour each way. I’m very happy with where I’m at currently, although the advancement opportunities have dried up a little bit due to changing business needs, but I’d still need a really solid bump to make me consider working elsewhere.

  10. KellyK*

    I think another thing to consider is whether the new job will add any new expenses (either directly or indirectly). For example, I’d want a raise to go from my current business casual environment to a “suits every day and business casual on Fridays” environment, because it’d necessitate a lot of clothes-buying initially, and up my overall clothes budget. Also, I’d compare the commutes. Will I be spending more or less on gas and vehicle maintenance? Is there public transit? Is there a break room/kitchen with fridge and microwave, or will I end up eating out most days? If the job necessitates moving, that would factor pretty heavily, of course, but even the little expenses add up.

    I’d even look at things like the average hours (assuming the position’s salaried and you don’t make more if you work more). With a 60-hour a week job, I’d have a lot less time and energy for cooking, cleaning, and other “life maintenance” kinds of stuff than with a 40ish job. So, I’d consider ways I’d be likely to spend money because of that. Less cooking & more take-out, paying someone to clean, hiring a dog-walker, paying for yard maintenance, etc.

    Once I’ve done that math, at least in r0ugh estimates, then I’d consider all the other factors folks have mentioned. Is the job a better fit, how satisfied am I with where I am, etc. But since a 20% raise looks much less awesome if it increases your expenses by 15%, I’d figure that out first.

  11. Anonymous*

    Me? Probably 50%, no joke. The “soft skills”/fit at my company can’t be better, so that’s one consideration. Second, I live really close to my job, so I have a 10 minute commute. Third, my company pays straight time for every hour past 40. Fourth, they gives us generous leave. (I accrue four weeks annually since my first day on the job. It increases to 5 next year.)

    So, say the expectation is that I work a 45-50 hour week. That’s a 12.5%-25% increase right there, just to maintain parity with my current job. On the soft side, since I like the culture so much, the new place would either have to match that (which I couldn’t really know until I’m in the door, even if I knew people there) or compensate me for the decline. Who knows what that would cost, because it would have to be more than a token amount to compensate me for the fact I gave up something I really liked.

    Then, the whole point of switching is to actually make more money, so I’d need an increase that was a non-trivial net benefit.

  12. Jamie*

    This was a fun question – and a very interesting mental exercise.

    For me it would be 33%. I love my job (most of the time) and I’m not looking – I know how good I have it (most of the time). But of course there’s a magic number I would jump for.

    I may love my job, but I’m not so financially comfortable that money isn’t a factor. If I were offered something that would significantly increase our standard of living without hurting my career…I would feel obligated to my family to pursue that.

    I would feel selfish turning something down because I like my current situation. Besides, while there are many other deal breakers for me when it comes to job satisfaction besides money…but I don’t come in every morning because I can’t think of anyplace else to be. In the end it’s about how to best my support my family.

  13. Anonymous*

    I hate my job now (my boss, really), but still wouldn’t take more than 5% less than what I make now. Reason being, my next job should be a long term one, so might as well get what I’m really happy with instead of getting a ‘stepping stone’.

  14. Anonymous*

    I left my job a few months ago, and I’m trying to go back and there is a pretty good chance I will. Can I still ask for a pay increase of about 20-30% if I’m going back to the same place? If not, what is reasonable? Thanks!

  15. Anonymous*

    In a related question, have you ever heard of a company trying to confirm current salary after offering somebody a job? I applied for something online in an electronic application, did not have exact current salary info at the time (honestly don’t keep exact track after all these years, and always round up a little to keep from getting low-balled) so roundup from the ballpark where I knew I was. They offered the job, I accepted, now the background check agency is asking for pay stub to confirm current salary. My roundup was not that far off – $3000 higher than actual on an almost $100K salary and my new salary is only about an 8% increase – but it’s freaking me out that they might consider this falsification of information. They also asked for old W2s and if they’re trying to confirm old salaries those are almost definitely off as I totally estimated. Who remembers what they made 4 jobs ago? If I’d known companies checked this kind of thing I would have kept exact info handy. Thoughts?

  16. Jason*

    I think all of the factors listed in other posts here are relevant to whether I accepted a new position (coworkers, work environment, etc.) but from a purely economic point of view I think the salary increase would have to account for time learning new job (and potentially getting lower increases as a result) so lets say 2 years of pay increases at 4% per year (8%). Plus there has to be some incentive to put in the extra effort and expense required to move, so lets call that 5K, which spread over 5 years at 50K per year would amount to 2%. Which brings the minimum to around 10%. I’d say negotiate for 20%, settle at 10% at a minimum. 15% seems like a nice moderate number to shoot for.

    Another factor that a lot of folks don’t take into account are benefits (pension, 401K, medical). These can be converted into a total dollar figure for use in comparison between jobs (it’s not always about the salary). For example, the pension benefit at my current employer will pay me a full salary at retirement (which is age 55). Converted to present-day dollars, this amounts to about 20K per year.

  17. Bo Morti*

    Right now I am in a mixed feeling situation, cuz the company just shifted a store keeper to be my supervisor knowing that he is without any qualification,bad communication skills and moreover a negative signs of future command of the department. This guy makes my life very difficult he asks me Where did I go and couple more silly questions and sometimes I prefer to switch my job or rather resign because of him anyway WHY I feel mixed or my feelings the senior staff is on retirment plan and their will be some vacancies in the same company, since I have a plenty of features in the current job, so Why should I change the company knowing that our unemployment ratio to the population ratio is a figure to be shocked off!
    So I am just waiting for the right moment to apply for other post in the same company away from that stupid supervisor !!

    Good Luck All

    1. Jen M.*

      Good luck, Bo. I think in your case it makes sense to hang on a bit longer.

      I hope you apply for those positions and get one!

  18. Emilie*

    I hated my current job and I think I would’ve left for $0 if the new job was interesting or challenging. My last switch I actually went DOWN.

    This time it’s going up 13%. Not bad to escape a place I did’t like. Interesting blog.

  19. June*

    I just started a job in February at 80,000 a year (salary)and I just got an offer for 93,000 from another company (hourly). The lower paying job has more benefits and is more stable but the higher paying job would bring me in extra income which my family needs right now—I am torn.

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